The Crusader Newspaper Group

Struggle to enhance public education is a battle we must fight

Childhood memories, indelibly etched into our hearts. This time of the year has always held magic, even though it was closer to Labor Day, when we were young. It was the start of another school year, and we were brimful with anticipation.

In our younger years, it meant shopping for school clothes. It meant finding that new metal lunchbox featuring our favorite cartoon characters. It meant making sure we had plenty of notebook paper, rulers, and No. 2 pencils.

As we grew older, the start of the school year signified our being one step closer to graduation, what varsity sports we might pursue, what clubs or organizations we would join, the rigors of our class schedule for the semester, and whomever might designate the latest object of your affection.

No matter what grade level, it was a time of excitement in a period during which the name of your school was synonymous with the name of your neighborhood. And for the next nine months, you identified as a Panther or Blue Raider or Cougar or Hornet or Trooper or Blue Devil or whatever school tradition dictated.

Much like the neighborhoods that we once loved so dearly, what’s left of the schools that you knew growing up in Chicago, Gary, Indianapolis and other communities in all likelihood is a little more than a memory. Just as cities changed complexions over the past half century, so have the schools. The change has not been for the better.

Those schools whose doors remain open find themselves replete with challenges from the very first sounding of the first day of school bell until the summer break that comes months later. Let’s get straight to the point. Discipline, not academics, has become the No. 1 challenge in schools today.

The proportion of time required of teachers just to maintain an atmosphere for learning is such a distraction that it makes it impossible, on a broad scale, to exact the best performance out of scholars hopelessly distracted and, in too many instances, UNINSPIRED.

The combination of horrible conduct that emboldens children of all ages to speak disrespectfully to teachers and one another, along with the lag in fundamental reading and math skills, paints a dismal picture of public school reality today. Teachers are disheartened and retiring at a record pace. Fewer qualified individuals are inspired to pursue careers in education.

You can’t blame them. Their preparation is inadequate. The administrative support needed is often weaponized against the prospect of their success as teachers. Parental support for the most disruptive and disengaged students is too often nonexistent at worst and inadequate at best. Teachers remain arguably the most underpaid professionals in American society. Shame on America.

And through it all, they remain valiant men and women who soldier the educational battlefront on a daily basis, fighting against the odds. They bring an indomitable spirit and an unbreakable passion for students that translate into the best hope of our society. They are underpaid, disrespected and expected by too many to do too much for too little.

But they will be there in the trenches as we start another school year, and I thought it would be nice to say sooner than later, “We love you and thank you for your services.” It would be nice if you prayed for public schools and the teachers. It would be even better if you volunteered your time as services to a particular building. And it would top even that if you became politically involved in demanding legislation favorable to public education.

May God be with our educators, young scholars, dedicated parents and those whose work supports or facilitates the potential for success in each of our public schools.

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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